Exactly four years after stunning its defence sector rivals with a surprise launch order from the United Arab Emirates, Saab is giving its GlobalEye surveillance aircraft an air show world premier appearance in Dubai.
Flown from Linkoping in Sweden via Crete on 14 November, the heavily modified Bombardier Global 6000 business jet is one of three to have been prepared for the UAE air force. Its arrival came less than three months after Saab conducted a first flight of the platform on display after making the extensive adaptations required to install its sophisticated mission equipment.
In the static display with temporary UAE markings applied, the aircraft is one of a trio of GlobalEyes that will enter use in defence of the Gulf nation.
Saab’s head of radar solutions, Lars Tossman, declines to reveal the company’s planned delivery schedule for the UAE, but notes: “From all aspects the programme is on track.” However, speaking late last month, the Swedish company’s departing chief executive, Hakan Buskhe, said the first of the multirole surveillance assets will be delivered before the end of the first quarter of 2020.
A first adapted Global 6000 made its flight debut in March 2018, followed by a second in January 2019 and the on-show example in late August.
“Aerodynamic flight tests are concluded, system verification acceptance tests are ongoing, and we are extremely pleased with the system performance,” Tossman told Flight Daily News on the eve of the show. A training programme has also begun with the customer, and initial mission equipment and spares have been delivered.
The programme’s lead aircraft is currently having its onboard test equipment removed following the completion of envelope expansion work and certification flight testing, through which the company’s pilots report its flying qualities to have been “extremely close to the original Global 6000”. This is despite the addition of features including the distinctive Saab Erieye ER surveillance radar mounted above the fuselage, and large maritime surveillance radar faring underneath.
The second aircraft has conducted system-level testing, including of all onboard equipment, data links and ground communications, plus the GlobalEye’s command and control functionality. This ongoing process is demonstrating “excellent system performance,” says Tossman. Crucially, the platform has proven its ability to simultaneously perform airborne, land and maritime surveillance tasks without any degradation in performance of individual sensors.
“We are the only one that has all three segments at the same time,” he notes, with the aircraft’s turret-housed electro-optical/infrared sensor and Leonardo Seaspray 7500E maritime radar complementing the Erieye ER’s performance. With five interchangeable onboard operator stations and an expected 11h endurance, this will give the UAE a sector-leading surveillance capability in the Middle East region.
The final aircraft – which will be returning to Sweden immediately after the show – has already been used to support pilot and operator training activities.
Recalling the UAE’s order announcement at the 2015 show, Tossman notes: “I think we took many people by surprise, and also our competitors. We are proud, four years after the contract, to have it here.”
With its GlobalEye on show for the first time, Saab is expecting a busy few days ahead. “Dubai is a fantastic air show: you have people from all over the world, and it is extremely busy,” Tossman says. “I hope we will have attention from different delegations and customers.”